The Golf is closing with the innovators

Doctor on the Road: VW Golf ID.3

If you are ready to take the electric plunge, then Dr Tony Rimmer recommends you give this offering from Volkswagen a test drive.

Is now the right time to buy into a new technology? 

We medics will have asked ourselves this question many times over many years about many different aspects of our work. 

As first adopters, we must take a risk. We may be stuck with quickly outdated and expensive equipment or we may hit the first wave of an emerging revolutionary market and reap the benefits of being a trailblazer.

With motoring, the electrification of all our cars is the biggest and most dramatic change since the dawn of the internal combustion vehicle in 1885 and the arrival of Karl Benz’s tricycle. 

There have been some false starts over the years and many of us may remember the electric milk-floats that delivered bottled milk when we were young; the technology has been around for decades.

It has taken the increased awareness of CO2-induced global warming and the negative effects of poor air quality in urban environments to nudge us into embracing and developing the technology.

David vs Goliath 

The car industry, you could argue, has been slow to change. It took a Silicon Valley upstart, Elon Musk with Tesla, to act as David while the established global car makers watched on as Goliath.

However, now the giants have awoken and are starting to release their own electric cars after several years of development and spending billions of pounds. It is of great significance then, that we are now able to buy the first all-electric car from the biggest of all manufacturers, the VW Group.

It is the ID.3 and it has been designed from the ground up using all the technical know-how and experience that VW can throw at it. So what is it like and is it a breakthrough product that we medics really need to take note of?

I have been driving the £35,880 1st Edition model of the ID.3, which is the only version available at the moment. It has lots of standard equipment, a 201bhp electric motor and a 62kWh battery which gives a claimed maximum range of 260 miles.

Main competitor 

There will be other variants available in due course, some with different-sized batteries too. It can take up to 100kw DC charging at a plug-in station and can charge up fully overnight at home from a 7.2kW or 11kW unit. Its main competitor in the market is the well-established £36,395 Nisssan Leaf e+ Tecca. 

In the flesh, the ID.3 looks smart and modern: not too futuristic like the BMW i3 and not too plain like the Leaf. It suits bright colours and on its standard 19-inch alloy wheels looks almost sporty. 

Futuristic theme

Step inside and the futuristic theme continues. The digital dash and touchscreen is clear and easy to use – not as intuitive as in the Polestar 2, but better, in my view, than the truly minimalist approach of the Tesla Model 3.

So, first impressions are positive. Continuing the evidence that VW has spent a lot of time making this a suitable alternative to the established internal-combustion Golf is that the interior space and packaging is on a par with the older design. 

The boot is just as big and there is even more room in the back seats for three passengers – the benefit comes from a longer wheelbase and a flat floor above the batteries.

Behind the wheel, I quickly got comfortable and I like the slightly raised driving position. However, the seats lack adequate lateral support for my liking. The ID.3 takes off from rest swiftly in typical electric car fashion and what becomes quickly apparent is the excellent smooth ride. 

Despite our rough roads and the large alloy wheels, it really is impressive. The steering is sharp and with the instant electric surge available, it makes negotiating urban traffic stress-free and even fun.

Out on the motorway, the Volkswagen continues to impress. Wind noise is notably suppressed so cruising at 70mph becomes limousine-like, as there is no engine noise and the ride remains smooth.

Limitations of battery

It is only on twisting A and B roads that the limitations of the battery-laden chassis become apparent. Despite a low centre of gravity, you cannot cheat physics, so cornering is perfectly fine but not sporty. 

Also, I would prefer the regenerative braking to have a more powerful setting – there are two available but neither gives a true one-pedal-driving ability. To give VW its due, this is a deliberate ploy so as not to put off buyers new to electric cars.

So, is the ID3 a gamechanger? Well, it is a really good all-electric car which I would highly recommend. The real-world range of this version is around 200 miles. If you wait for the 77kWh battery version you will get a more useful and real 270 mile range. 

It will be more expensive, though. As a rule of thumb, you can calculate the real-world range of an electric car by multiplying the battery size in kWh by 3 to 3.5 miles/kWh. Manufacturers will always quote a range based on a super-ideal 4m/kWh.

You could always wait for the next VW products to use the same chassis and batteries; the VW ID4 or Skoda’s Enyaq SUV which will be better value. 

Any medic who feels ready to take the electric plunge has an ever-increasing choice of excellent cars and that can only be a good thing.

Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey